Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 6

          In 1965 I was awarded the top purchase prize in the Annual Eight State Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The Center has since been renamed the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.  1965 brought other recognitions my way such as inclusion by the Who’s Who in The South and Southwest for its Second Biennial Citation in Art; the same year that pioneer heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey received it in medicine and U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright in government. My award was sandwiched between awards given to artists Jasper Johns and Gene Davis (1963 and 1967) before the program was discontinued. Not bad company! Incidentally, in 2011 President Obama presented Jasper Johns with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House.  It was the first time in 34 years that a painter or sculptor has won the nation's highest civilian honor.

          The 1960s were halcyon years for my family.  We purchased our first Dallas home on the corner of Wycliff and Douglas.  It was built on the back of the lot with garage in front.  Previous owners had hoped to build a larger home on the Wycliff frontage.  This promised a charming little house near the boys’ school.  One of my former art students, architect Cole Smith helped us to make it into a little showcase; the Dallas Morning News wrote glowingly about it in its Monday, January 3, 1966 issue.  Our home was designed with two upstairs bedrooms and a bath.  The plumber told me that it was the first time he had replaced a modern bathtub with an antique claw-footed one.  Cole Smith composed a compact kitchen; to our delight, he used a waxed brick floor.  The kitchen was divided from the dining area with shutters.  The rooms were heated with restored and converted antique wood stoves.  French doors opened to a front porch the width of the house.  The porch was covered with Wisteria, so attractive when in bloom.  In the spring the sight brought unsolicited offers from prospective home buyers.

          Our fleet of cars was increased to include a practical station wagon, which, along with the TR3 looked well in the driveway.  We decided to convert the garage to a playroom for our sons Cole and Kevin.  The centerpiece was a professional Brunswick billiards table that featured a triple slate felt-covered playing surface.  The table was mounted on a laminated bent wood base.  The pool table proved to be a wise investment; our place became a hangout for the boys’ friends.  The arrangement was hard on the refrigerator but well worth it for the healthy lifestyle it promoted for everyone.  Joan and I decided against bringing a television into our lives until our boys had learned to read and use the library.
          Cole and Kevin played on the football team and I don’t think Joan and I missed any of their games.  We regularly shuttled almost half of the team to the games.  One year a line led from the Xmas tree out a back window to the station wagon; a go-cart gift was in it.

          We felt our little nest to be so charming that we could have confidently hosted a party for Queen Elizabeth.  We did entertain Richard Marcus (future CEO of his family’s luxury retail business) and Françoise Gilot (widely known as the only woman who dared love Pablo Picasso and leave him), two people just as exalted as the Queen, don’t you think?

          With the exception of 1961 and 1963 which were spent in Cape Cod, throughout the 1960s our family visited coastal Port Aransas during Easter, Thanksgiving and most summers.  It was during these fun years that I painted the “sand dune” series.  Other extended family members would join us in Port Aransas.  Sculptor Roy Fridge worked and lived on the beach.  He joined us for many meals, he was an always welcome guest.  Cole and Kevin hunted for the old and rusted bolts of hurricane-damaged piers.  Roy used the bolts in his artwork.  We acquired four of his sculptures.

          Fortune Magazine in 1955 and 1956 published two long articles about purchasing art as an investment.  Those writings strongly contributed to the corruption of the art world.  The magazine inadvertently drove the art market into the hands of wealthy people who otherwise had no knowledge, sensitivity or love of the fine arts.

          So by the 1960s it was a bit late to put together a truly great collection of French Impressionist, classic early 20th century and even pre-war American work.  The reason being is that those works’ prices were growing so very quickly.  Owners had the opportunity and incentive to donate works to museums at a significant increase in value over what they had initially paid.  Due to a change in federal tax law, the owners’ museum donations yielded considerable personal federal income tax deduction amounts.  Such giving led to owners’ having their egos stroked and they enjoyed increased stature in the art community.  This situation gave other players the opportunity of only assembling a good or perhaps even a fine collection, but not a great one.

          There are some first-rate works in the Margaret McDermott art collection, most notably Degas Dancer with Fan 1879, a pair of early Monet Nymphéas, a Georgia O’Keeffe “open and closed clam shells” and a beautiful Renoir drawing. Also in the collection are three sculptures purchased directly from Atelier Chapman Kelley.  One is a work by Jean Arp, another is a 1937 nude by Henry Moore and the other is a Rodin titled La Meditación.   These certainly are among the artists’ best efforts.  Distinguished London art dealer Thomas Gibson had a hand in facilitating the Henry Moore acquisition.

handwritten note from Margaret McDermott to Kelley (transcribed): "Dear Chapman: I can not tell you how I have enjoyed the show--and admire your determination to do things in a grand way.  Good luck and hold that lovely lady for me until I return (the Rodin, I mean, of course) Warm Regards - (signed) Margaret
1937 nude by Henry Moore

La meditación  by Rodin

          Wildenstein Gallery principal Goldenberg and I urged Margaret McDermott to make some key purchases.  However, because of pricing she missed owning some masterpieces—there comes to mind a Monet still life with an enormous bouquet of either asters or daisies. The McDermott collection is a very respectable one, assuredly one of the most important in Dallas.  The collection’s diversity of historical periods and styles will one day be a significant addition to the Dallas Museum of Art.

another hand written note from McDermott to Kelley dated April 1967
           Although Margaret McDermott did not accept the sales policy I had set with Wildenstein Gallery of New York and Atelier Chapman Kelley she did buy regional artists work.  One purchase went to benefit the Dallas City Colleges.  She bought one of my larger “poplars series” works, it had been in a Dallas Museum of Art exhibit, for the El Centro College opening day ceremony.  Another purchase was a large size “field of flowers” piece that was placed in a well known Dallas medical school director’s office.

          Gene McDermott knew of Margaret’s attitude toward my sales rules.  He saw to it that I was compensated.  And he was very generous in helping me to purchase work for my personal collection including pieces by Henry Moore and Georges Braque.  Gene even arranged for my son Cole to unexpectedly have a McDermott scholarship to St. Mark's School. Gene was probably a major supporter of the school.

Knoedler & Co. Gallery note informing Kelley of Margaret McDermott's shipping instructions, 1967

          We were great friends at this point and I made for Gene a gift painting of his favorite cottonwood tree.  The tree was located on their “farm.” I personally carved the frame for that painting. Gene’s ending days were protracted.  But he was fortunate to spend them at home.  He was eventually confined to his bedroom and had the cottonwood painting brought in from the "farm" and hung there in the room.  Gene was obviously comforted by the work and needless to say it pleased me when I learned of the move.  Jerry Bywaters agreed that it was a high compliment to me.  Bywaters and I were the only arts professionals present at Gene’s 1973 graveside service which was a by invitation only private affair.

          In the mid-1960s Evelyn Lambert and Janie Murchison sent private university Northwood Institute founders (1959) Dr. Arthur E. Turner and Dr. R. Gary Stauffer to me to advise them about establishing an arts affiliation with their business college.  The Northwood Institute already had four campuses in operation including one at Cedar Hill near Dallas which to this day continues to serve students in the Southwest United States. Turner and Stauffer had heard Roger Stephens director of the newly formed National Endowment for the Arts say that a growing need existed for people who could manage a fine arts organization, without sacrificing quality in the arts, and who also could keep theatres, galleries and other arts entities operating as viable businesses.  I replied that the partnership would have to include a professional art school.  And that I would hire the first really good graduate.  (I actually had to fire my entire staff in 1966.) Turner and Strauffer asked me about my desire to include an art school.

          I told them that was great and that I would know more about the matter soon because I would be discussing the topic at a University of Illinois symposium. Apparently the head of the U. of I. Center for Advanced Study was impressed after learning of my challenge to the College Art Association about programming.   I had been a speaker at the CAA’s 1960 convention in Dallas where I cautioned the audience about the plethora of new studio or professional art departments popping up on every campus and how they would have to do the same things that professional art schools had done for 160 years.  The teachers in the art departments would be those who were not in need of a day job.  Essentially, as Olan Hankins a retired educator friend of mine said, “Mozart and Beethoven had teachers, but no one taught them to be Mozart and Beethoven.”  Or as a high school teacher and former art student of mine said, “You can no more teach that which you don’t know than you can come back from some place you ain’t been.”  Professional art schools had professional artists come in to teach for only one day a week--they did not employ professional teachers.   School administrators would have to accept that incoming students with lesser talent, if administrators were honest with them about their prospects in the art world, would not return for a second semester. The few students who possessed the real ability and drive would instead leave to attend a major art school where they could study with professionals and broaden their exposure by regularly visiting major museums.  Those who would realize, certainly the vast majority, that they did not have the prerequisites would then go into other professions or business to become knowledgeable and sincere supporters of those few individuals who proved themselves to be the real thing—an artist.

          So the head of the University of Illinois’ Center for Advanced Studies chose me for the symposium; I’d be rubbing elbows with some very important folks.  He invited me to be on two of the visual arts panels for the university’s “Matrix for the Arts.” The event was part of the school’s Centennial Celebration cosponsored by the Illinois Arts Council and the university’s Center for Advanced Study.  The purpose of the symposium was to explore whether or not a university campus could provide the atmosphere, culture, freedom and professional instruction to help and train serious art students. 
          One fellow panelist was American writer, educator, philosopher and art critic Harold Rosenberg. He coined the term Action Painting in 1952 for what was later to be known as abstract expressionism.  The other visual arts panelist was architect and U.S. interstate highway system designer Joseph Passonneau.  Designer Leo Leone moderated the event.  Three individuals, pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments John Cage, prolific Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer Charles Wuorinen, and American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian, and jazz musician Günter Schuller were panelists.  American music historian, critic, author and seminal figure in the field of musicology, Gilbert Chase, rounded out musicians on the panel.  Performance arts professionals such as dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, French mime performer Claude Kipnis and Canadian-born American actress, dancer, writer and theater director June Havoc were all part of the visual arts panel.

         Saul Bellow, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts, opened the symposium.  American systems theorist, architect, engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist Buckminster Fuller closed the symposium.  I was asked to represent the visual arts on the wrap up panel.  Since I was due to advise the Northwood Institute’s Turner and Strauffer I stayed for the after-event, Buckminster Fuller’s presentation, “Intuition.”  That talk was to become one of the most important events of my life.  Everything significant that I have done since has come out of or been strongly influenced by what I learned about intuition from Fuller that day.

          Another strong influence came into my life at that time.  Lucky me—what a creative mixture!  Artist Françoise Gilot brought along for the second show of her work at Atelier Chapman Kelley her new husband polio vaccine pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk.  What a dynamic duo!  Stanley Marcus had asked me to have an exhibit of Gilot’s paintings in 1964 to coincide with the release of her book, “Life with Picasso.”  The book sold over a million copies in dozens of languages.  Gilot came to Dallas for the Neiman-Marcus French Fortnight and the exhibition of her paintings.  Gilot, Salk and I hit it off personally resulting in my taking a trip with them to New York.  We visited Harold Rosenberg and June Wayne.  June founded the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles. She led the revival of fine art printmaking where artists teamed with master printers. Françoise continues a close professional relationship with my former dealer Jake Manguno of New Orleans, who I introduced her to several decades ago.

           In the 1970s Françoise, Jonas and I shared our alarm about the direction the art world was taking.  We actually planned an international conference for Dallas to air these concerns.  We had the attention and help of my good friend Louis Hexter.  Like the art world itself in Dallas our plans were torpedoed.
          While in Chicago from the 1980s through 2006 I had the opportunity to hear Françoise Gilot speak at The Art Institute of Chicago on various artists she had known.  She was the best lecturer on art that I have ever heard.  The AIC lectures were invariably filled to capacity.  Imagine my hearing her speak of Giorgio De Chirico!

          Once Françoise stayed over to spend an evening with my Chicago Wildflower Works board of directors and some of the volunteers who maintained it. The event was held at the home of Chicago Wildflower Works chairman and civic leader Hope McCormick and her husband Brooks. 

          Everyone was very pleased with Françoise that evening.  Ken Peterson, aka Ken Boe, said the “Gilot evening,” combined with his volunteer work maintaining the Chicago Wildflower Works 1984 – 2004 while attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was a life-changing experience.

          As expressed in the Arts section of the New York Times Sunday edition, October 23, 2011, "Stealing the Show," Françoise is having much well-deserved success in galleries around the world.  She is a vibrant person and significant artist and poet--a great lady. 

Next up in Chapter 7
Gainesville, Texas
Northwood Institute plan and result
“Goals for Dallas
magnet arts school concept: Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts

All of the above is copyrighted material, all rights reserved.  Permission for use will be considered upon written request.  Blog comments are encouraged, the use of actual full names is strongly recommended, as are affiliations with organizations. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chapman Kelley's Memoirs - Chapter 5

          Prior to the second exhibition of my work in New York City, Mildred Hawn and I were invited to Braniff Airlines Headquarters to meet over lunch with their executives.  During the meal we were offered a Braniff International Airways 707 jet for our exclusive use. We couldn’t refuse the amazing offer; it was to ferry an ever increasing group of Dallasites and folks from other cities that were to attend the formal opening of my exhibit.  It would be a sojourn of art immersion on the East Coast with visits to museums, galleries, and tours of private art collections. Our plan was to land in Washington D.C, pick up Nancy Carroll and fly to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It was quite a trip heading into a D.C. snowstorm; the pilot announced a change in itinerary, we would instead be landing in New York.  On the ground buses were queued waiting for our group.   Our caravan eventually made it to Philadelphia where Nancy Carroll, having made the travel adjustment on her own, greeted us. 

         Margaret and Gene McDermott and I had many occasions to refer to paintings that we had seen in the famed art collection of American chemist Dr. Albert Barnes in Merion, Pennsylvania and of the private collections that painter and art teacher Hobson Pittman led us through in Philadelphia.  

         I knew that Gene had invested in Braniff International Airways by purchasing a significant amount of its stock shares.  I also knew that some of the stock purchases made by Gene were bought from William Arvis "Dollar Bill" Blakley.  Blakley was appointed to the U.S. Senate after Lyndon Baines Johnson vacated the seat to become John F. Kennedy’s running mate in the 1960 presidential election.  

         My gut feeling was that Gene, having been active at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts prior to his 1955 marriage to Margaret, realized that she wanted to assemble an important art collection.  But Gene knew that Margaret’s first purchase of an early Van Gogh work had not been an impressive choice.  The purchase was a common mistake made by other collectors: right artist, wrong work.  So the evidence was clear: our having access to and use of a Branniff jet, coupled with Gene’s presence and other circumstances, was no accident.  This alignment of occurrences strongly indicated that the McDermotts were contemplating for me to be their guide and advisor for their art collection.  I passed muster.  It would be a sure-fire bet that Jerry Bywaters and Wildenstein Gallery principal Louis Goldenberg had a hand in Margaret and Gene’s decision to make me their advisor.  

         Among the first batch of photos and provenance sent to Atelier Chapman Kelley of available works from Wildenstein Gallery was a quintessential painting.  It was “Dancer with Fan,” 1879, 17⅝ x 11⅜ by French Impressionist Edgar Degas.  It is a superb example of his mature work.  At $325,000 it was by far more expensive than the others in the group. It cost more than what Margaret McDermott was willing to consider.  However, in my opinion I considered the work well worth it.  Margaret was reticent to buy it.  In fact she was dismissive because of the price.  I persisted and convinced Gene to buy it for her and he did. Margaret asked Wildenstein Gallery president Louis Goldenberg to pay me a commission on the sale. He sent $1,500 which pleased me. 

Dancer with Fan by Edgar Degas 1879

          Margaret did not buy into the strict sales rules that I had set up with Wildenstein Gallery.  Instead, she went through endless haggling which delayed the closing of a sale.  This sort of negotiating was costly to a gallery and necessitated a price mark up in order to give a price mark down to cover the cost of the delay.  This was a legitimate part of the business but one that I had eliminated from my own dealings confident and comfortable with my “one price for everybody” business practice.

         In the mid-1970s a Claude Monet “Poplars” work was the last painting that I had recommended to Margaret, but she did not purchase it through my gallery.  By then Gene had died.  I learned that she apparently paid 10% to 20% more for it than the amount I had offered to sell it to other collectors! I suspect that she paid this avoidable premium, across the board, because of her lack of trust in my sales arrangement with Wldenstein Gallery.

         While Margaret’s new house was under construction, she unexpectedly sent to me two works from her personal collection.  One was a 1946 red landscape by Georgia O’Keeffe.  The other was an original on the theme of the artist and his model series by Pablo Picasso.  I hung these “on loan” pieces in my studio. What joy!

         After the new McDermott house was finished, my former art student Richard Childers and I set up shop in the McDermott garage to refinish the paintings’ frames to best advantage. On a daily basis we were to alert the majordomo if we were not to be expected for lunch.  

          In the mid-1960s, before completing the refinishing of the Degas “Dancer with Fan” frame, to assure the painting’s security I would take the work home for the night.  Throughout the decade that I was involved with the McDermott collection we would have at times several valuable paintings awaiting completion of their frames. Another security measure to make sure the paintings were theft proof would be for someone to sleep overnight with them.  Shippers of paintings to be considered for purchase by the McDermotts were instructed to send them directly to Atelier Chapman Kelley.  The venerable Upper East Side N.Y. Knoedler Gallery (165 years in business) was among the galleries sending work to ACK for Margaret.  

1967 Knoedler Gallery letter to Kelley regarding Chagall work and McDermotts

           Margaret, having married while in her mid-40s, was determined to leave her mark on Dallas.  And she has done so in spades --with a little help from her “team.” For example, I joined her for lunch with architect Ieoh Ming Pei, designer of the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, to discuss his plans for the new Dallas City Hall building.  And when she and my friend, banker and art student R. L. “Bob” Thornton Jr. were appointed to organize the city colleges, Margaret invited me for lunch, without Thornton, to determine if we could agree on the architects who would design the seven college campuses. We did reach an agreement that major American Southwest architect O’Neal Ford should be one of the architects. However, for political reasons Ford would not be acceptable. Margaret knew of my professional relationship with Bob Thornton Jr. She felt that I might be the only man in Dallas with who Bob would be comfortable discussing aesthetics.  She asked me to make an attempt to convince him to back all of our seven project architects.  Of course when I went to Bob’s office the first thing he said was that Margaret could be a bear about architects.  He asked my advice, I told him of Margaret’s wishes—and bingo—that’s the way things got done!  Bob retired and became an avid and serious painter enjoying every minute of his new life.  He invited me to see his work, but as I was living in Chicago at the time, sad to say, I never had the opportunity.

          Because I had been very active with the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art and the Dallas Museum of Fine Art I had first hand knowledge of the dynamics at play and of the proposed merger of the two.  Museum director Douglas MacAgy mounted some interesting exhibits at the DMCA.  The 1962 survey show of works from New York was a real treat. Another was the first U.S. retrospective exhibition of Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte.  That show was a great introduction to Magritte although surrealism was far from new and no longer cutting edge.  One MacAgy exhibition included the work of painter Gerald Murphy; but it did not elevate Murrphy above dilettantism.  MacAgy’s “The Art That Broke the Looking Glass“ left everyone scratching their heads as we sought to understand the work’s theme, let alone absorb its purported historical significance.  In the 50 years since I have not heard it mentioned once. 

         MacAgy’s exhibitions were no more daring or contemporary than what Jerry Bywaters was showing at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts where Bywaters also had other periods of art to cover.  For instance, the DMFA acquired a great “drip period” painting made by Jackson Pollock, “Cathedral” (1947); the DMFA was already way ahead of the pack.  Even a personal appearance by Josef Albers, whose work “formed the basis of some of the most influential and far-reaching art education programs of the 20th century,“ was a superb treat and a lesson for all of Dallas.

          Unfortunately, under MacAgy the DMCA was never able to develop a solid audience and failed to attract additional backer support.  MacAgy lasted only a few years as director.   By 1961 DCMA was forced to begin talking merger plans with the DMFA--not to be finalized until 1963.

         I recall a DMCA meeting where Betty Blake (Guiberson) was almost weeping and plead for extending the life of the DMCA. Victims of this merger were DMFA’s Jerry Bywaters and DMCA’s Urban and Jeanne Neininger.  The Neiningers were delightful people--I always thought that Urban had the closest ties to the New York artists. Because a museum directorship is such a highly visible position, given his severe stuttering condition it was doubtful whether Urban could be a successful director—otherwise he might have been able to make the DMCA work.

          The DCMA – DMFA merger provided the opportunity to have one museum director.  Merrill C. Rueppel would be that person.  According to the Boston Globe newspaper, before coming to Dallas, Rueppel had a troubled career at the St. Louis Art Museum. James Clark was fingered by the Globe as the party who chose Reuppel to become the director of the DMFA.

          My involvement with the DMFA led to various interactions with Reuppel.  I am not alone in characterizing him as being arrogant. Reuppel came off as being jealous of painters and sculptors. As with many museum directors and curators outside the sphere of the New York art scene, Reuppel fancied himself to be the “King” of the Dallas - Ft. Worth area.  He wished his position as museum director to determine which art pieces collectors were to buy and the prices they were to pay.  For this service many museum directors and curators unfairly demanded sales commissions from New York art dealers. When he learned that Dallas painters Don Vogel, Ann Cushing Gantz and I operated art galleries and that I was regularly advising Margaret McDermott and James Clark about their art collections, Merrill became outraged. He knew that painters, sculptors and other creative types can demonstrate our “eye” for high quality content and meaning and that others could verify our professional credentials and standing.  For centuries artists have been chosen as advisors by serious, forward-looking collectors. Artists as advisors include: Mary Cassatt, Arthur B. Davies, “Ashcan school” movement cofounder William James Glackens, Jacques Lipchitz and Diego Velázquez; Johannes Vermeer was an art dealer.

         When Reuppel learned that I had again won the top prize at the Texas Annual Exhibition in 1964 he cancelled the DMFA’s co-sponsorship of future exhibitions.  That exhibition had grown to such stature as to be jointly sponsored by major Texas museums. Prize winners were routinely announced in museum catalogs.  But when the time came to announce that I had won, it was omitted from print…petty, petty.  The public was kept in the dark about my prize until the exhibition opened at the Witte Museum of San Antonio, Texas; the Witte Museum’s catalog noted my prize.    

         Next on Reuppel’s hit list was his order to close the DMFA’s art school.   He had a confrontation with sculptor and art teacher Octavio Medellin about the school.  I convinced Margaret McDermott to have a committee hearing on the matter and it did take place.  I felt that all of the options should be discussed such whether to close the school, work at improving it, or for it to remain unchanged.  Jerry Bywaters, who at the time was the art department chair at Southern Methodist University, said that the DMFA’s art school should be improved. Jerry felt that the likes of DMFA’s art school teachers Otis Dozier, Octavio Medellin and myself was reason enough to keep the school viable.  Bywaters had been unsuccessful in recruiting these same people to teach at SMU.  I had declined Jerry’s offer to teach there since the early 1960s. I vividly remember Jim Clark’s phone call to me about the committee’s recommendation to improve the school; it had been adopted by the DMFA’s board of trustees.  Historically, most professional art schools have been attached to museums beginning with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 1700s, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Corcoran in Washington, D.C., Art Institute of Chicago.  Given what we knew about Reuppel, predictably the DMFA’s art school was closed anyway.  

        Margaret McDermott and I attended a lecture by Reuppel on 19th Century American art history which was his field of study.  I noted that he had not only failed to mention the first museum and art school in the U.S., the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which graduated such illustrious names as Mary Cassatt, Thomas Eakins, the Peal family, and many of the “Ashcan School” movement’ s artists.   Reuppel mischaracterized Cassatt as having been trained in Europe.  McDermott asked me write him a note pointing out the omission and errors.  His reply to me was rude.  Reuppel said that I should take the wax out of my ears. And he denied that he had said that Cassatt was not U.S. trained before she settled in Paris!

          A tape recording exists, made by Ann Cushing Gantz, painter and former teacher at the DMFA school’s regular high school art class, where Ann tells of a talk by Reuppel at Hockaday High School.  Painter Ruth Harrison was then head of the art department.  On the recording Reuppel was asked why he did not look at Texas artists’’ work.  His priceless reply was that if we were any good we would have already left for New York.  What about his situation? If his career was so great--he studied in Wisconsin, was at the St. Louis Art Museum and DMFA, but no New York offers! 

          By about 1968 many artists, civic leaders and art patrons were so disgusted with Reuppel that rumors surfaced about the McDermott art collection: it was about to be lost to the University of Texas.  When I asked Margaret about the rumor her reply was that she and I had worked so hard to see that her collection would compliment what the DMFA already had—that nothing was further from her mind.  Of course I urged her to make no commitment about moving her art collection until we had the chance to make the management of the Dallas museum, one that was so good and well run, that no Dallasite would ever consider leaving their art collection elsewhere.

          To have a say on how the DMFA was managed—the “move the McDermott art collection” rumor nudged concerned artists in that direction.  A local chapter was formed of the National Artists Equity.  The purpose of the chapter was to draft a credentialed artist to represent all image makers to the board of the DMFA. A NAE requirement was that one had to have considerable community recognition to belong.  Dallas sculptor Arthur Koch, who was trained at the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Washington, and is one of the most successful artists, was voted to represent the NAE.  Koch is one of the best art teachers in the area.  He is an exceptional person.  The NAE membership was large and it grew to represent the professional world of Dallas artists.

          Suddenly, Reuppel vanished from Dallas without any official museum explanation. In time we learned that he had been named director of the prestigious Museum of Fine Art, Boston.  According to the Boston Globe newspaper, Reuppel immediately offended that museum’s curators and others.

         A year or so later I received a phone call from Boston Globe reporter Otile McManus.  She asked me if I knew of Merrill Reuppel. I told her I did and invited her to visit Dallas to learn more, which she did.  I introduced her to various art world figures and arranged for Ed Bearden, a DMFA senior staff member, to take her into the museum’s basement storage area to view the still unannounced and still unexhibited (at the time about nine years had gone by since Jim Clark had donated them to the DMFA) alleged works by 19th century French painter Henri Fantin-Latour.  So the key to this mystery was that art collector James Clark had donated these dubious paintings in order to take a $40,000 U.S. federal income tax deduction as if the works were authentic.  Apparently Reuppel accepted the two “Fantin-Latours,” definitely not to exhibit them, but for other reasons, perhaps for Clark to take advantage of a big federal income tax deduction, what else could it be?

          Jim Clark admitted to reporter McManus that he had in fact claimed a federal income tax deduction and that he knew the artwork’s authenticity was questionable.

          This and much else was revealed by the Boston Globe in its March 7 and 19, 1975 newspaper editions and an article appeared in Time Magazine.  The Tuesday, June 10, 1975 Globe headline stated, “MUSEUM TRUSTEES FIRE REUPPEL.”  And on the same day, in the New York Times, “BOSTON MUSEUM OUSTS DIRECTOR,” a blunt term I had never before or ever since seen printed about a museum director’s leave-taking.

          Chapter 6 to follow...soon


more professional recognition
family home life
Fortune Magzine's misfortune
McDermott art collection
Northwood enters
"Matrix for the Arts" at University of Illinois
 Françoise Gilot and Jonas Salk

All of the above is copyrighted material, all rights reserved.  Permission for use will be considered upon written request.  Blog comments are encouraged, the use of actual full names is strongly recommended, as are affiliations with organizations.

Observations by Chapman Kelley - 2011

admin. note:

       During the past month painter Chapman Kelley has completed four revealing chapters via his memoirs.  In this piece he reflects on the past, current and future of the U.S. art scene.

                                                     CHAPMAN KELLEY
          Why is it so important to return to strong professional management of art museums?
          The difference, dear friends, if you haven't noticed it, between the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s and now (the present), is that during those earlier years, the artist was indisputably and unequivocally central to the art scene!  The public benefited from this legitimate arrangement through its exposure to art by burgeoning professional artists.  This was clearly evidenced in Dallas by the crowd who went, at their own expense, to the opening of my first New York solo exhibition and to an awards ceremony at the National Academy of Design.  Dallasites prided themselves as shareholders, holding a share in our success!  They returned in even greater numbers the following year, and Braniff Airlines volunteered to schedule a 707 just to take a group of us to New York for my second exhibition.  [See Sam Blain Dallas Art History Blog]
          Art critic Harold Rosenberg, with whom I served on a panel for The Matrix for the Arts Symposium at the University of Illinois in 1967, commented that the artist has been demoted.  Essentially, art market manipulators are having their day at the expense of both art professionals and Dallas citizens who pay for it all.  All funds used by museums are either direct government funding or tax deductible funds, therefore qualifying as public funds. 

          The late Ted Pillsbury, an important player on the American art museum scene, said that art galleries are becoming more like museums and art museums are becoming more like commercial galleries.  The New York Times article, "Stealing The Show," published Sunday, October 23, 2011, echoes Pillsbury's opinion.  It states and illustrates that galleries are winning the race, have important exhibitions with scholarly catalogues, and are gaining greater audiences because they have better shows and are admission-free while most art museums around the country charge admission - $25 per visitor at the Museum of Modern Art. 
          It is obvious to me that a large part of the difference between the art world of earlier years with the current art world is that art museum donors have usurped aesthetic decisions that were once the exclusive domain of art professionals.  "Big donors," driven by deep pockets and a self-serving interest in personal profits, in effect control too many museums' aesthetic decisions in order to inflate the value of their private holdings and manipulate the art market.  Successful art dealers and serious collectors, on the other hand, bet their own money and seek a preponderance of independent professional opinions, including assessments by more established artists (in Dallas, however, the more established artists are blacklisted), to pick the most promising newcomers.

         It's pathetic that many donors and speculators seem to have convinced themselves that, not only do they know more about art, but they are also more important than the artists themselves.  Shame on those of you dilettantes, who distort the art museum world out of greed and personal gain, thus destroying the credibility of our art museums - formerly fair arbiters of taste - replacing professionalism with your twaddle! 

          I would like to venture some questions for all to ponder and chew on while we partake of our holiday feasts together with our children and grandchildren.

          As our children grow to adulthood, what will they inherit in the art museums of the future?  How will museum aesthetic decisions made now impact the legacy of future generations and the art of their own times?  And how will those decisions shape our children's aesthetic experiences and attitudes toward their art institutions?  Will they reflect the best of their inheritance or will museum art represent the dregs and left over fantasies of current market manipulators and speculators and/or the fickle fashion of the moment?   Will serious art and artists continue to be held hostage by the distortion of art as mere commodities for financial market speculation by fashionistas?

          I believe that irrevocable hard evidence, which will be revealed in my ongoing memoir, will point to obvious answers.  Please stay with us and hang on for a bumpy but serious ride, which hopefully will contribute toward the flourishing of a more professional art world based once again on integrity, museum accountability and transparency.

          The image below is of a letter written to Chapman by University of Texas Professor in the Arts Donald L. Weismann regarding the work of sculptor Alberto Collie.  The letter is dated November 15, 1966.
         Have a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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